The Snow Child

Eowyn Ivey

A bewitching tale of heartbreak and hope set in 1920s Alaska. Jack and Mabel have staked everything on making a fresh start for themselves in a homestead 'at the world's edge' in the raw Alaskan wilderness. But as the days grow shorter, Jack is losing his battle to clear the land, and Mabel can no longer contain her grief for the baby she lost many years before. The evening the first snow falls, their mood unaccountably changes. In a moment of tenderness, the pair are surprised to find themselves building a snowman - or rather a snow girl - together. The next morning, all trace of her has disappeared, and Jack can't quite shake the notion that he glimpsed a small figure - a child? - running through the spruce trees in the dawn light. And how to explain the little but very human tracks Mabel finds at the edge of their property? Written with the clarity and vividness of the Russian fairytale from which it takes its inspiration, The Snow Child is an instant classic - the story of a couple who take a child into their hearts, all the while knowing they can never truly call her their own.

WHSmith Edition now contains Exclusive Bonus material including...

Reading Group Questions

Author interview with Richard and Judy

Trout Rising – An unpublished short story by Eowyn Ivey



A bewitching and magical story, inspired by an ancient Russian fairy tale in which an elderly childless couple builds a little girl out of snow, and are astonished when she comes to life.

Eowyn Ivey relates the sadness of Jack and Mabel. They had just one child who died as a baby, many years before the book begins.

Mabel never conceived again.

Living on the east coast of America, Mabel cannot bear her increasing sadness as all her sisters and friends have children, creating large families. Eventually, desperately unhappy, she and Jack take advantage of a US government initiative to enable farmers to settle in Alaska, a snowy wilderness that will allow them to make a new start.

The book begins in 1920, as Jack struggles to clear the land in their fierce new home, and to keep them financially afloat. Meanwhile Mable’s grief at her childlessness threatens to overwhelm her as she adapts to the loneliness and silence of the raw wild beauty of the Alaskan landscape.

By this time the couple are well into middle-age. They know they will never have the child they long for.

Then a miracle; the first snow of the winter arrives and in a rare tender moment, Mabel and Jack make a snowgirl in their yard. They dress her in gloves and scarf, and fleetingly they feel happy and optimistic. In the morning, the snowgirl has disappeared – melted, one assumes.

But then Jack begins to glimpse a little girl running through the trees around their homestead. Who is she? Where has she come from? Mabel thinks she knows. This, she believes, is their little snowgirl come to life. This, at last, is her beloved daughter.


Part fairy tale, part travel odyssey. The descriptions of Alaska’s stunning beauty and almost impossible hardships are stunning. You marvel at the sheer wildness of what America called its ‘newest homeland’.

I can barely imagine what it must have been like to relocate from a comfortable urban existence on America’s east coast to an untamed wilderness. But many did, encouraged by the US government’s financial help to settle an inhospitable frontier.

Jack finds the back-breaking labour of clearing his land almost too much, and at one point he nearly gives up. He believes his only option is to leave Mabel and work in the faraway Alaskan mines, a job so dangerous that Mabel begs him to abandon the idea.

As a man, Jack is much more down to earth than Mabel. When the mysterious snowchild enters their lives, he refuses to believe, like his wife, that she is a sprite fashioned from snow, and come to life to be their daughter. Nevertheless he falls in love with the young girl, and for the first time his heart swells with paternal pride and love.

There is heartbreak in this story, but ultimately joy as well, when, because of a tragedy, Jack and Mabel’s desire for children is at last fulfilled.

Reviews & Comments

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  • I'm half way through this delightful read. I could be with them in Alaska. Great value for money. You could pay the same for a magazine. It's a wonderful escape, a lovely dream.

    Jen Nixon

  • Read this at beg of year in hardback and loved it! Totally bewitching and captivating is written so well and is a truly beautiful story.


  • This book is really beautiful. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a lovely gentle read. I was totally immersed in the book and love Mabel, Jack, George, Esther and Garrett. It is a rewording of an old story but done in a really touching way. I could imagine this as a film with Nicole Kidman playing Mabel. Very lovely and highly recommended.


  • Wonderful descriptions of Alaskan wilderness mixed with a heart warming story of love and sorrow - thoroughly enjoyable book!


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